All posts by Mr Hari Covert

I am a passionate foodie, former chef and also ex hotel & restaurant inspector. I have been immersed in food for over forty years so its been a lifetimes work...

Flaming June…

Well with the weather warming up we are thinking about our June events and the menu we are going to produce. We have decided to reprieve some of our favourites and we hope you will like them…

We will serve a selection of seasonal nibbles to kick the evening off along with a suitable summery drink. We will then as the first course serve a South American inspired starter of a “Ceviche” a mix of smoked haddock and raw prawns that are marinated for a few hours in a citric marinade and then served shaped like a tartare with a celeriac remoulade (dressed in a mustard mayonnaise)

Main course will be a roasted fillet of beef served with a mixed wild mushroom sauce a rosti potato cake and our veritable “haricots verts” (green beans).

For our cheese course we will make it a selection of suitable cheeses served with our infamous Porridge Oat Biscuits and home-made Banana Jam.

To complete the meal we will serve Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse. A really light and flavoursome chocolate mousse that allows the true flavour of the chocolate to shine through as it contains no cream!. Some local summer berries and also serve up a cold pressed iced coffee to help wash it all down.

It will hopefully be a warm and sultry night and we look forward to welcoming old and new guests to our secret venue (well to the newbies at least)

To Book please complete the booking form below and we will contact you normally with 24/48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number.

Dates: Friday 10th & Saturday 11th June 2016

Time:  19:30 Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 20:00 Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £40.00 Per Person (Service Not Included) 

Menu 

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock & Prawn with Celeriac Remoulade, served with corn bread 

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Wild Mushroom & Cognac Sauce, Crispy Rosti Potato Cake, Haricots Verts

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses served with Porridge Oat Biscuits & Banana Jam

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Damian Allsops “Water” Chocolate Mousse, Summer Berries & Cold Pressed Coffee Milkshake

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availabilty

Tapas, Meze, Light Bites… little morsels of loveliness

I have always enjoyed the idea of small plates of food that you can share so that you can sample what a kitchen has to offer and also a great way to share a meal. I have recently sampled a few meals like this in the last month or so. Firstly on a recent hook up with world renowned chocolatier Damian Allsop in Girona Spain we sampled some beautiful tapas in a back street establishment called Restaurant Curcuma. It was right in the city centre and had a modern simple decor but some great tasty and innovative tapas.

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Cod with Sobrassada Sausage
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Turmeric scented Croquetas

Highlight for me were the turmeric (the name of the restaurant) scented croquetas, crispy cased and soft unctuous centres and some steamed cod topped with roasted onions, honey and Sobrassada sausage. Innovative flavours simply presented and reasonably priced.

Then more recently we found ourselves back in the town of Whitstable at one our favourites – the infamous and highly popular Jo Jo’s Restaurant where they specialise in Mediterranean meze, – large sharing boards of assorted well sourced cold meats, cheese and small bowls of Hummus, Tzatziki etc as well as small plates of other ever changing specials and regular favourites. The cod or haddock goujons in a beer batter highlight the fresh fish that are ever so popular.

Crispy Pigs Ears...
Crispy Pigs Ears…

I also quietly ordered one of the blackboard specials of  the day… Crispy Pigs Ears with a Remoulade sauce. This was a very generous portion of crispy crumb coated slivers of porcine goodness that were to put it mildly rapidly devoured by even the youngest of our party ( a 4 year old) with gusto.

All that sharing ensured a very respectable and celebratory lunch was had by all.

Then most recently I was invited to a restaurant in the centre of Canterbury that was not on my radar or I had any idea of its existence. I was joining a friend who had been invited for a lunch at Deesons Restaurant where head chef Ross Barden was keen for us to try their newly launched “British Tapas” dishes in this quintessentially modern British restaurant.

The tapas idea here was both innovative and at time quite unexpected and as a whole worked well with some good skilful thought out dishes but then some not so well executed ones.

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We actually sampled the entire menu and were generally impressed but did feel the kitchen was trying just a shade too hard. Dishes that worked really well and were outstanding were a twice baked “Old Winchester” cheese soufflé with a carrot pureé that needed a little more seasoning and sweetness to cut against the savoury nature of the cheese. The Confit hen’s yolk with buttered leeks and crispy chicken skin soldiers was inspired. The Crispy Haggis with a poached egg and parsnip crisps was also flavoursome but technically the haggis was a tad dry from over frying/baking so needed the soft egg to add liquid!

Cider Braised Beef Shin with apple juice and ginger with mash and cabbage was a wonderful unctuous dish but again lacked in seasoning. The Spring Greens with wholegrain mustard worked beautifully as did the charred broccoli with cheese sauce and flaked almonds whilst  smoked mash potato was less popular than the the plain one – it did need more butter, cream and salt.

In fact the seasoning overall throughout the meal did raise the question did “Chef” smoke as a lot of the dishes seemed under seasoned. This is a common situation in many a kitchen and for me something that was drummed into me in my formative years how important it is to season the food correctly and also taste it.

We also sampled a couple of croquette style dishes that when compared to a “Spanish croquetas” sadly missed the mark. The Smoked Cod Kedgeree was a good idea but the large cake like croquette was just to big and clumsy, a good livid coloured curry mayonnaise was much needed to moisten it.

The Pork and Potato Croquette served with an an apple butter was also oversized and would have been better smaller and perhaps served as a threesome. The apple butter on the tapas version did not pack the same punch that it did when served with the a la carte main course of Pork Tenderloin along with Black Pudding crumb and candied walnuts and a cider jus (to die for)

So overall this was a highly enjoyable delve into how we can equally compete with our continental partners and it can well showcase our own culinary heritage.

Deeson’s is a a little gem and I look forward to a return visit as I think if Chef Ross can sort out the issues we encountered he will be a place to watch in amongst the plethora of those  uninspiring tourist eating establishments of Canterbury.

Deeson’s British Restaurant
25-26 Sun Street
Canterbury
Kent
CT1 2HX

Fiesta de la paella at Scallywag Café – Tunbridge Wells…

Looks as good as it tastes!
Looks as good as it tastes!

Well our May dinners will be a bit of a Spanish Fiesta with us cooking an authentic Paella freshly before your very eyes in central Tunbridge Wells.

The plan is over two nights we will be  based at the Scallywag Café where we will taking over the premises on the Friday 20th & Saturday 21st May on each evening.

We will serve up a simple selection of Tapas to kick the evening off and then serve up a classic one pan Paella comprising of Chicken, Chorizo and Prawns (Vegetarian option is also available)

To finish it all there will be a simple Almond Tart Served with Taywell’s Honeycomb Ice Cream.

20150906_150957There will be a selection of drinks available for purchase direct from Scallywag Café and owner John is also planning some live Iberian themed musical entertainment to get you all in your own sombrero stomping mood!

To book the event you can do so via our dedicated page the Billetto ticketing web site here.

No bookings can be made directly with Scallywag Café or via the Hari Covert web site they can only be made via the Billetto ticket site.

We have limited spaces each night so please do book early to ensure you get the places your require.

Dates: Friday 20th & Saturday 21st May

Venue: Scallywag Café, 45 Mount Ephriam , Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8AA

Time: 7:30pm for 8:00pm

Menu

Assorted Tapas –

Gazpacho Shots, Deep Fried Croquetas, Pan Catalan, Tortilla Bites, Manchego & Honey

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Freshly Cooked Paella –

A mixture of Chicken, Chorizo & Prawns cooked with peppers, green beans & Mussels

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Pastas de Almendra with Taywell Honeycomb Ice Cream

(Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability)

Wines & Drinks can be purchased on the night direct from Scallywag Café

Live Entertainment – format to be confirmed.

Booking closes: 18th May 2016 at 5pm

The “Willy Wonka” of chocolate is thriving…

It was great to recently catch up with Damian Allsop the chocolatier that was until early 2013 located in Tunbridge Wells. He moved back to Spain with his Spanish partner Anna and took up residence in the town of Girona.

His chocolate business struggled to continue and a short period of his own restaurant in the centre of the town was also despite great reviews thwarted by circumstances beyond his control.

Damian has had a tough time of it and his story is a fascinating one. Some 15 plus years ago he had a nasty self-induced accident that resulted in him breaking both his feet,  a result of  falling from a second floor balcony.

It seems amazing to think how he has bounced back but much is to be credited to his stalwart partner Anna. Anyway after he folded his chocolate business and the restaurant business he was approached by his old bosses in Girona the “Roca” family. Their 3 star Michelin restaurant empire has become his current “lifeline”.IMG_8891

He is tasked with making all the chocolates for the restaurant and banqueting as well as making some of the centre piece cakes for big banqueting functions. Using all his old pastry skills learnt over the past 25 plus years. Plus his amazing and much respected chocolate making skills.

IMG_8887Well the last few months has seen some interesting developments in his journey that will I am sure bring a new chapter for them. He is now classed as just the chocolatier for the “Roca Empire” introducing a range of seasonally changing chocolates for the business every 3-4 months.

EastermonaHe has just had a busy Easter period producing some moulded chocolate monkeys over 300 of them in just under 2 weeks… it was a last minute task he was given and one he says he will not repeat next year without a bit more forward planning!.

But more exciting is the plans ahead… The Roca Empire is expanding and it would seem pivotal in all of this is Damian’s skills as he is looking to develop a “bean to bar” business for them in an ethical and sustainable way. There will be a chocolate factory in central Girona and some boutique hotel rooms that will also be chocolate themed.

So hopefully by next Easter a weekend trip to the city will have a chocolate overload and be the best way to indulge those chocolate fixes.

Just remember you heard about it here first!

On “yer bike” coffee…

We are showcasing a fledgling company with our next dinner when it comes to our coffee service at the end of the meal.

The brain child of Maidstone Boys Grammar School  6th Former Dan Westby, he has been a big fan of coffee for a number of years. After much internet searching along with a loan from the bank of “Mum & Dad” he set himself  up with a coffee bean roasting machine.

Dan has thought through the whole business he has set up from the very clever name to the whole structure and set up. Velo Coffee is designed to be sustainable by selling their roasted beans at local farmers market in Bearsted each month to then being hand delivered by bike as that is Dan’s second passion.

So after much research and some clever branding Velo Coffee was born and Dan now sources his bean choice with the help of his customers and effectively small batch roasts to order the coffee to ensure the maximum freshness.

His current choice of bean is from Rwanda , and precisely Gashonga a small region close to the Congo and Burundi.

This “Red Bourbon” Variety is hand-picked  by smallholders at 1600 plus meters above sea level in ideal growing conditions that is then fermented and dried at the “Gashonga Station”.  He describes them as having a Chocolate & Brown Sugar flavour with a citrus acidity and a syrupy mouth feel.

Dan will normally buy 30kg of the chosen green beans  that he will then roast to order in batches of 250g at a time – a process he will do at last minute before delivery by bike to ensure they are at their optimal freshness. He will then also grind the beans for the desired method of brew. A finer grind for the filter method and a coarser grind for a Cafetiere or “French press”

The smell is evocative as the beans roast in circa 12 minutes and Dan brewed me a fresh cup on my visit to his set up that illustrated well the citrus notes of the light roasted bean that when drank black and without sugar was a perfect way to appreciate his passion.

He has promised to be on hand each night to talk about his business and the way it operates from his monthly stall at Bearsted farmers market to the subscription service that he offers to local residents where he delivers a freshly roasted pack by bike or for those further afield he will also send by Royal Mail.

For someone so young it is an enterprise to be admired and what is so evident is the passion he shows for the product – the care and attention to detail from the branding to processes involved is to be commended. I trust you will come and support him at our next dinner.

Velo Coffee Co – www.velocoffeeco.co.uk

Facebook – velocoffeeco  

Twitter – @velocoffeeco

Instagram  @velocoffeeco

“Cuckoo Cuckoo” its April…well nearly!

Well things are getting warmer and we seem to be enjoying longer daylight hours as the clocks are about to change… Spring really has sprung and we are keen to reflect that further in this next month’s menu and event.

cuckooAs the 14th April is deemed to be “St Tiburtius’ Day” when cuckoos start to sing we will be celebrating this event with a suitably seasonal menu!

Following a welcome drink on arrival – “a glass of sparkling perry with the addition of creme de cassis”  served along with some seasonal nibbles we will then as a first course be serving a classic wild garlic pestocombination of wild garlic pesto spiked risotto garnished with some sweet tasting crab meat. I really love making a risotto and the challenge is always to get it creamy and unctuous with a full flavour.

We will then move onto the main course of a pink roasted Rump of Lamb that will be served  with a piquant tomato and ginger sauce and a compote of spring onions. The vegetables served with this will be Green Beans (Haricot Verts) and duck fat baby roasted new potatoes.

Our cheese course next will reflect our market purchases and we will also serve our porridge oat biscuits infused with Ile de Re Sea Salt along with our homemade Banana Jam.

Finally we will complete the meal with our pudding… a Vanilla Panna Cotta, a lightly set cream that will be topped with a compote of fresh Rhubarb and then more than likely we will serve some warm fresh out the oven Butter Shortbread biscuits. A great combination and we hope a fitting end to this month’s meal.velo

Coffee this month will be courtesy of Velo Coffee Company  of
Bearsted – we will be showcasing their freshly roasted single origin coffee from Rwanda. More about that in another post!

Suggested Donation: £35.00 per person (Service not included)

Dates: Friday 15th & Saturday 16th April 2016

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm – Served

Menu

Crab & Wild Garlic Risotto

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Roasted Chump of Lamb, Tomato & Ginger Sauce

Green Beans, Roasted Baby New Potatoes

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses, Porridge Oat Biscuits & Homemade Banana Jam

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb Compote,

Warm Butter Shortbread

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Velo Coffee or Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

To reserve your places please complete the booking form below – we will contact you within 24 to 48 hours to confirm your booking.

Ides of March, well nearly…

With Spring nearly upon us and also Easter just around the corner we thought we would celebrate the Roman calendar date of the “Ides of March”.

The 15th of March reputed to be the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC  is a couple of days before our next supper club event on March 18th & 19th. So we thought we would have a little bit of a Roman feel to the menu.

I make no apologies for borrowing as a starter a dish that I sampled at Sprig of London’s pop up in January – Cauliflower Romesco .  A roasted cauliflower that is then served with a   roasted and dried red

Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco Sauce
Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco Sauce

pepper sauce with the addition of almonds and olive oil that is renowned in the Mediterranean region of Catalunya  that is often served in spring time with those new season onions called “Calcots”.

Next we aim to serve a baked fillet of Sea Bass served on a bed of  crushed new potatoes and a classic beurre blanc (butter sauce) with lemon and capers. All served with a garnish of Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

Our Cheese course will reflect our market purchases and will be served with our now infamous porridge oat biscuits.

To complete the meal we are serving thinly sliced pineapple with pink grapefruit segments and a light local honey dressing and the addition of a Taywells Yuzu sorbet. A good citric finish to a spring meal that we hope will excite the tastebuds.

With Mediterranean nods what better way to celebrate the Ides of March… well nearly.

Dates: 18th & 19th March 2016

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35.00 per person (service not included)

Menu

Cauliflower Romesco

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Baked Sea Bass Fillet, Lemon and Caper Beurre Blanc Sauce Crushed New Potatoes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli

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Hari’s Selection  of Cheeses with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Pineapple & Grapefruit with a honey dressing Taywell Yuzu Sorbet

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Coffee or Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to ingredient availability and market purchases

A Wong with Hom…

Now that heading sounds a bit weird I know but all will be revealed…

I am for my sins a graduate from what is now Oxford Brookes School of Hospitality Management (Was Oxford Polytechnic in my days!) at Oxford Brookes University.

I am also actively involved with their Alumni Association and get to go to assorted functions and events their Oxford Gastronomica organise throughout the year.

Well recently one of their esteemed ambassadors was in the UK for Chinese New Year and he was hosting a luncheon at A Wong a much lauded and on trend Chinese eaterie in Wilton Street Nr Victoria Station London. Ken Hom was in town and well I needed little persuasion to book my place at a lunch he was hosting at Andrew Wong’s gaffe!

It was quite an intimate affair with some two dozen diners ensconced in the basement bar of this restaurant. An introduction to the proceedings by head of School Donald Sloan was followed by a few words from Chef Patron Andrew Wong who informed us we were lucky to have him there as he wife was scheduled to have her baby that very day but in fact ended up having their baby on Christmas Day!

Any way we settled down to a real feast with firstly some Dim Sum style starters appeared –  Sui Mai and Har Gau as steamed dumplings. Then a plate of crispy prawn filled Wan Tuns and a Mushroom spring roll coated in Vermicelli… very delicate but also very tasty. The steamed dim sum had some great embellishment The Sui Mai with crispy Pork crackling and the Har Gao with some delicate citrus foam.

Then came a whole steamed Dover Sole – zingy fresh and expertly removed from the bone and garnished with the trinity (garlic, ginger & spring onion) Some lusciously pink prawns with a crispy fried garlic and spring onion topping were beautifully sweet tasting – shame it was only one prawn each!

Next came a Crispy Duck course that had some wonderfully novel twists on the standard restaurant serving. A paint brush came standing up in a shot glass ready to paint the steamed pancake with the Hoisin sauce. The normal cucumber and spring onion garnish was added to by small slivers of smoked duck and then some crispy fried pieces of dried bean curd. It was a clever and well thought out addition that gave the whole dish a new flavour dimension and texture.

Once the duck was cleared away we then had a slight pause before rice bowls arrived and then a plethora of main dishes. First a seared beef dish described as Yunnan Seared 40 day aged beef with mint chilli and lemon grass. (It got demolished before I could take a picture!) A masterful combination that had a real zing and freshness to it with quite an after kick to it.

A bowl of Singapore Noodles then arrived along with stir fried market Chinese greens. Then a really unctuous slow braised pork belly with lotus root and then another bowl arrived with Gang Bao Chicken with roasted Peanuts and a good chilli kick and then apparently a classic new years dish of a rice noodle cake with a bean sprouts. This was a real classic of flavour combinations and textures that was soft and chewy – in fact it was a bit of a “Marmite” dish amongst the other diners but I have to say I loved it.

To complete the meal once all was cleared away wooden boards arrived laden with what looked like little white peaches. These were in fact what could be described as one of Mr Wong’s signature dishes.  The recent Jay Rayner review on the establishment describes the dessert as possibly the best current dessert in London at the moment! It was I have to say quite honestly an amazing dessert. A crispy base to the dumpling that had a gorgeous duck egg based custard  hidden inside a soft delicate casing that beautifully oozed out of the bun as you bit into it!

This was a truly magnificent meal to celebrate Chinese New Year and the company of Mr Hom was equally welcome.  I am in awe of Mr Wong and now am keen to go back… I am celebrating a significant birthday this year and am already trying to plan as many return visits as I can.

My long time friend Chef Kam Po But who has guest cooked a couple of times with me is one I want to eat here with as I know he appreciates Andrew Wong’s talents and knows him well. If anyone wants to join me and But as this is very much a must visit establishment! Please just let me know and I will add you to the list! (You will have to pay your own way though!)

You can tell I enjoyed myself and when I finally left at nearly 5;30pm you just now when it has been a great lunch as much as great company!

Gong Hay Fat Choy

Covert Cook School… it’s back

When we launched “Covert Cook School” in the autumn of 2015 we were not sure what was the best format to pursue.

We feel now the best way forward is to structure the lessons to suit you. We are flexible on dates and the format the class will take… all we ask for is you choose the style of class you have that will then dictate the size of the class so the  number of friends or acquaintances you come with.

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If you want a one to one lesson that is fine – if you want it hands on then we ask for just two attendees. If you want just a demo class then four people is the ideal number.

We will then discuss the content of your lesson and tailor it to what you want to learn. It can be tricks of the trade or perhaps something more complex and involved.  Just remember the lesson will be bespoke to you.

To book your own Covert Cook School please complete the form below or go to the Covert Cook School dedicated page.

Fondue Fancy…

I bet you thought the headline said a “Fondant Fancy”… yep that little garish coloured cake – alas not…something far better in fact!

fondueFollowing from the success of our pop up last year in Tunbridge Wells we thought we would offer a repeat of a couple of themed cheese fondue nights in our secret home location.

It is a classic time of year to enjoy this Alpine classic of hot melted cheese with bread dipped in and we felt it was very worthy of another airing.

We will have two tables of 6 people on each night – you will have to share but what could be more convivial than such a feast.

We will kick it all off with a simple bowl of lambs lettuce salad (Nussli in Switzerland) topped with walnuts and chopped egg.

Then the main event will be the hot melted wine and cheese fondue with bread cubes – some little extras like chopped ginger (an innovation and tip given by a local Swiss resident)  or a  smoked chipotle paste will give it all another flavour dimension.

To finish it all we will then serve a light Orange & Polenta cake with a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt. A tangy  sweet finish after the excesses of the wine & cheese. We will provide a little glass of MuscatMuscat de Rivesaltes with this as well

Finally tea or coffee along with some Swiss Chocolate as a petit four will complete the meal.

It should be a convivial night and a great way to make new friends. Just remember it is important not to bring a red wine (it clots the cheese) or drink ice cold drinks (it will also clot the cheese) – a full etiquette on the whole procedure will be provided on the night.

Arrival: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation: £30 per person (service not included)

To Book please complete the form below and we will confirm your spaces normally within 24 to 48 hours.

Menu

Welcome Drink and Nibbles

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Nussli Salat Mimosa und Baumnussen

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Cheese Fondue with suitable accoutrements 

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Orange & Polenta Cake with Greek Yoghurt

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Tea or Coffee, Petit Fours

Menu subject to ingredient availability and market purchases